Tag Archives: Angelina Jolie

Jack Black and Angelina Jolie on Kung Fu Panda 2, Getting Physical and the Good Bad Guy

While not part of the official selections at Cannes, someone at Paramount studios must figured that if you have to have the stars of “Kung Fu Panda 2″ meet the press, well, why not do it in the South of France? Especially since the first “Panda” played there out-of-competition back in 2008 — and also probably in no small part because Angelina Jolie probably had family plans to travel with “Tree of Life” star Brad Pitt …

Sitting with Jack Black and Jolie, the voices of Po the Panda and Tigress, I asked exactly to what degree either of them acted out while in the recording booth; does the kung-fu spirit move them to move? Jolie thought so: “It can get pretty physical.” Black, renowned for his distinctive physicality on-screen, was even more sure: “I do like to mimic any of the moves that Panda’s going to do. I like to do it, too, so I get the vocalizations just right.”

As a sequel, “Kung Fu Panda 2″ is also in 3D — so, I asked Jolie, how did everyone involved make sure that the film wasn’t just bigger but also better? “Why it stands out is because so many animated films are great, but (‘Panda 2′) does stand on its own in that it’s an ancient story, it’s a classic, and it feels like a classic with kung fu and animals and fun.” Jolie explained that many of the merits of “Kung Fu Panda 2″ were revealed to her in the making of it.”It has a beautiful message in it. We knew that — (but) I didn’t know exactly which ones, and then we discovered that they were about family and inner peace and coming to terms with who you are and friendship and loyalty. It was what we’d hoped for, and better than I imagined.”

With Black, his excitement about the sequel was a little more down to earth — and all about Gary Oldman’s bad guy, an albino peacock named Lord Shen. “I love that it had a great new villain with a very evil and intriguing plan. At the same time, Po had this inner journey that he was going to take to find out who he really is — and to find inner peace is the only way to truly kick ass. It seemed like a really good, fun movie.”

As Po, Black has a mix of enthusiasm and observational irony; how hard is it, I wondered, for him to get into that headspace? “It’s pretty easy. It’s basically me in my teen years — that’s how I think of it. The first movie, Po was me when I was 10 years old, and this one’s me when I was 13, 14. The next one will probably be …” ‘Kung Fu College,’ I asked? ” Black shrugged: “Who knows? I didn’t know where that was going. It might be a prequel. We might go back — before I was born. Haley Joel Osment will take over.”

With animation, having a great actor as the new villain is all well and good — until you realize that you may never be in the same room with him. So did Jolie and Black feel mixed emotions about having Oldman join the cast but not necessarily them? Jolie nodded: “Absolutely. We think, ‘I’m finally doing a movie with Gary Oldman — but he’s a peacock and I’m a tiger and we’re not on the same team.’ The other side of it is … who cares? I just get to do a movie with Gary Oldman. ” Black also felt that having someone with bad guy experience was imperative: “Yeah, he’s always been one of my favorites. He’s done so many great ones over the years. That was the big question: ‘Who’s going to be the peacock? Who’s going to be the villain?’ When I heard Gary Oldman’s name, my heart’s like, ‘Come on … please come true.'”

From my article at The Rundown

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Kung Fu Panda 2

Watch my MSN interviews with the stars of Kung Fu Panda 2 here.

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Jolie and Depp were cutups on set

PARIS—With its wrong-man plot and stunning locations of Paris and Venice, The Tourist, starring Angeline Jolie and Johnny Depp , evokes a bygone age of Hollywood glamour and globetrotting peril. That, according to its stars, is no accident.

Jolie, who plays Elise, an Englishwoman with a secret, says the challenge was to capture the sparkle and grace of an old-fashioned suspense thriller without making the film feel like a museum piece.

“We watched To Catch a Thief,” she said in the five-star Hotel Meurice, a stone’s throw from the Seine. “And there were lots of other things we were supposed to watch. I became more aware of those periods. But at the same time, you want to watch those movies, but you don’t want to mimic. We wanted to make it modern, so I was nervous; I didn’t want to make it too precious.”

Jolie explained how the film’s old-world glamour and intrigue was a perfect antidote to some of her more athletic escapades on-screen of late, like the thriller Salt — and a nice chance to do a little sightseeing.

“Is it an action film? I actually did it because of the opposite, kind of. For me, it wasn’t action; maybe there’s action in it, but I didn’t get to participate as much,” she said.

“I had finished Salt, and Brad (Pitt) was to work next, and he had a small delay in his film. So we had a few months, and I questioned if there was anything out there that shot in a great location. Honestly, that was the phone call I made.”

Once Jolie came on board, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — whose acclaimed debut, the East German surveillance drama The Lives of Others, is far removed from The Tourist’s gleaming beauty — was signed to direct and then Depp joined the project.

He plays an American math teacher on vacation who gets caught up Elise’s web of lies, deceit and danger as she charms him into following her as she is being tailed by Scotland Yard.

Depp, for his part, felt no shame in playing to the crowd as Frank Tupelo, a Wisconsin teacher mistaken for an English swindler who’s bilked a mobster for billions — including fleeing for his life across Venice’s tiled roofs in bare feet and flannel pajamas.

“I think initially, the guy was supposed to be either in a towel or in his underpants, I can’t remember. But there was something about the image of a grown man in pajamas; they look like something that you’d pull out of the Leave It to Beaver dad’s drawer,” said Depp. “That image, juxtaposed with the background of Venice, I thought that there was something really funny about it.”

Added Depp: “I’m a real sucker. If I see a gag coming around the corner, I snatch it up immediately. I can’t help myself. You spend nine-tenths of the time trying to make your costar laugh, and I guess some of it’s in the film.”

At the same time, Depp’s willingness to go for a gag wasn’t without consequences, as von Donnersmarck explained.

“I had a terrible time on that rooftop (scene), because I had not computed how these Venetian tiles are incredibly rough. And (Depp) was running along there and we shot that scene for a few hours,” von Donnersmarck said. “At one point I felt he was getting a little slower and I went up there and said, ‘It’s getting a little slower; I need this to be in full speed.” And he said, ‘I’m trying, but it’s hurting a little. . . ’”

“There were traces of blood over the whole roof!” von Donnersmarck said. “He’d cut up his feet and hadn’t said anything because he didn’t want to slow up the shoot! I felt terribly guilty. I went home thinking, ‘I didn’t get into this to make actors bleed.’ But that’s the kind of actor Johnny is.”

It wasn’t all agony, though, according to Jolie.

“There’s some footage floating around I’m surprised hasn’t surfaced. Good God, it was 20 minutes, half an hour — there was a good run where we could not stop laughing. There was a good, solid . . . we wasted a lot of film. I got a lot of producers a little frustrated because we just couldn’t get through it, we just couldn’t stop laughing.”

And even with battered feet, Depp sees The Tourist’s charm and elegance — and his masquerade as a regular-guy math teacher — as enough of a departure from his work in big-budget fantasies like Alice in Wonderland or the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

“I’m still doing the same bits, just trying something different each time, exploring something new; that’s what’s important, just keep challenging myself and try to come up with some new faces every now and again,” he said.

“Many years ago, Marlon Brando asked me, ‘How many films do you do per year, kid?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe three or something.’ And he said, ‘That’s too much. We only have so many faces in our pockets.’ It’s really true . . . but I still feel like I got a few faces in my pocket.”

From my article at The Toronto Star

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Depp and Jolie Play The Tourist, Wahlberg and Bale in The Fighter and The King’s Speech

Angelina Jolie, looking the model of the modern movie starlet in Paris, isn’t ashamed to admit that a lot of the reason for signing on to her latest film, “The Tourist,” was purely scenic. Even before “The Lives of Others” director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was signed to direct, the Venice and Paris settings inspired her to step into the space in her family’s schedule left by the collapse of husband Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” to take a role as a woman of mystery embroiled with Johnny Depp’s roaming Wisconsin math teacher.

“Brad’s film was delayed, and I said, ‘Well, is there anything out there that shoots in a great location? Because I don’t want to drag all the kids to another tough place for right now, ‘” she says. “They said, ‘There’s a film that shoots in Venice and Paris.’ I said, ‘Fantastic. Send me that one. What is that?’ And then, hope was, we’d find a great European director, and Florian was my favorite and my first choice, and it all just came together.”

Jolie winds up spending the majority of the film wearing beautiful ensembles in beautiful locations — again, while not exactly a difficult gig, also something demanded by the script and the Hitchcock-lite tone the film was shooting for. “I knew that we had to try for something elegant and beautiful,” she says. “It’s not a great, intellectual film; it’s not a big, emotional, deep film — it’s a lovely caper, so it had to be beautiful; it had to be special and fun. The scenery, the clothes and all that was important, so we had to figure that out.”

No costume or piece of couture, of course, was as important as Jolie’s co-star Johnny Depp. “He’s such a brilliant actor,” she says. “He’s just brilliant and sort of natural. He’s so giving. So it was just a pleasure. It was so much fun.” Perhaps too much fun. When I ask Jolie if there are lengthy scenes on the cutting-room floor of her and Depp cracking up, she smiles a knowing smile. “Very lengthy takes of that,” she says. “There were very angry producers and a lot of wasted film between the two of us just not being able to contain our laughter.”

There also, I suggest, had to be plenty of lost time from the difficulties of shooting in Venice’s palaces and canals. “There was,” she says, “but as an actor, we were kept from a lot of that. We kind of come out when it’s all sorted, and you think, ‘Ah, it looks so beautiful … As if by magic. Look at that: Venice is lit up at night, and the canals are perfect.’ So the crew really takes the credit for somehow making it work and figuring it out.”

Considering the end of the year’s slew of darker, dour dramas intended for Oscar consideration, I ask Jolie if she hoped that “The Tourist” and its light, bright charms would be a chance for moviegoers to enjoy something glossier and lighter during the holiday season. “I hope so, yeah,” she says. “I hope that people see it that way, and have some fun.”

From my article at The Rundown

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Johnny Depp: Sightseeing as The Tourist

Sitting down to talk in Paris, Johnny Depp — hair still at Capt. Jack lengths, gold teeth still plugged in his head from working on “Pirates of the Caribbean IV,” and the most tan human being in a 500-mile radius — is a far cry from Frank Tupelo, the perfectly average middle-American math teacher he plays in “The Tourist.” Was it, I ask, a pleasure to play someone so extraordinarily ordinary? “Oh, most definitely,” he says. “That was what intrigued me. I loved the story, to sort of attack this thing ahead known as the ordinary man. Not too many highs, not too many lows; just kind of glides along through life. This guy is put into a situation that’s completely abnormal and highly sensitive and unpleasant.”

And Depp also relished creating a part from the original script — an exercise that gave the world’s most eccentric movie star a chance to work out some ideas of his own. “The idea was to make him really the everyman, the math teacher who has a slight amount of obsessive-compulsive disorder and his weird routines and things like that in the script,” he says. “The idea was to take this guy, this normal guy, and put him into these situations that are certainly less than normal, these kind of high-stakes situations.”

Beyond playing a classic thriller protagonist — the average man in a deeply odd circumstance — Depp also relished the chance to work with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in his studio film debut and with Angelina Jolie. “I watched ‘The Lives of Others,'” he says, “and I thought Florian’s work was really teetering on the flawless, just kind of up in the ranks of ‘Chinatown.’ Incredible work. I just thought to see this guy enter this arena would be interesting, so I was very intrigued by that, certainly. And then the opportunity to work with Angelina — I admire her greatly.”

I ultimately ask Depp if playing in a film with so much old-school glamour — with Tupelo leaping across Venice’s tiled roofs running for his life or showing up at a black-tie gala to try to save the day — was, for him, the biggest pleasure of starring in “The Tourist.” “Most definitely,” he says. “I mean, yeah, of course. Because there’s a sliver of it that initially reminded me of Hitchcock, like ‘North by Northwest,’ this guy that ends up in these situations that seem to go worse and worse and worse. There’s a (sense of) classic cinema to it. I think Florian really stuck to that.” “The Tourist” opens nationwide this Friday. You will be calling your travel agent to price out trips to Venice by noon Saturday.

From my article at The Rundown

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The Rundown at MSN Movies: Spies and Secrets with Angelina Jolie and the cast of Salt, and Countdown to Zero’s True Tales of Cold War Terror

Finally, speaking with Angelina Jolie about her title role in “Salt,” I’m thinking about the film’s origins — originally proposed as a Tom Cruise vehicle, then languishing in turnaround before getting back on track and gender-bent for Jolie’s purposes.

I ask Jolie why “Salt” was something she wanted to take on. “I do love a great spy thriller, and I thought it was smart. When I was reading it, I didn’t know what was going to happen, and then I was surprised. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s great, that says something …’ And then as we talked about what it could be, and what the stunts would be, and all of that, we expanded on it, it just seemed like one of those great adventures you just want to go with.”

Following up on Schrieber’s earlier mention of the recently-busted Soviet spy ring and its odd timing in relation to “Salt”‘s release, I ask Jolie, only half-jokingly, if when that news hit the production there were high-fives all around; she gives the balanced answer you’d expect from Hollywood’s reigning sex-symbol humanitarian: “Yeah, there was a weird feeling, because as citizens of the country, where you want our relationship with Russia and America to be really strong — we’ve made all this progress, you don’t want anything to set it back, and so as citizens you think, ‘That’s heavy, I hope that doesn’t turn into anything,’ and then of course as somebody involved in this film, the other side of me thinks, ‘Wow, that’s extraordinary timing, and you can’t beat that.’

And, like Schrieber, Jolie has a take on the physicality and the intensity of the work — and what happens after. “We usually start laughing. You have takes where I’m like …” — and here Jolie takes a deep breath — “‘AAAAAAhhhhhhhhhh!’ and as soon as [director Phillip Noyce] yells ‘Cut!,’ I’m giggly. Because I think you have to … it’s also that thing, where you’re punching friends in the face, you kind of have to have a sense of humor about it.”

One would hope, anyhow. When making “Salt,” did Jolie enjoy the change-up from fantastic action films like “Wanted” and “Tomb Raider” — while still getting to enjoy the run-and-gun stuff, the physicality, doing some damage, bringing the noise? “I did. I love that. I think everybody knows that about me. I do. I love to do an action movie. This one was particularly fun because other action movies I had done were based in fantasy in some way. I had never been able to do a real action movie based in some kind of reality, so it’s very different.” And, in the limited time we have left, I ask Jolie what her favorite spy thriller of all time is, and, somehow, the answer’s entirely too perfect, delivered with what could be seen as a wry smile: “‘Three Days of the Condor‘…”

–from The Rundown, July 20, 2010

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On Angelina …

“Jolie’s tempestuous personal life, penchant for tattoos, and sultry good looks made her an instant celebrity; her work as an actress, though, soon made it clear that there was much more to Jolie than just a face that set supermarket-checkout-lane magazine covers ablaze.”

— “Actress, Interrupted” (a title I’d love to take credit for) at MSN Movies.

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