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Angelina Jolie mans up
MOVIES
by Chris Azzopardi
2010-07-21

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Angelina Jolie at a Salt photo call held at Summer of Sony in Cancun, Mexico, in June. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.


Salt actress talks about her sex change, kicking butt in her new spy thriller and Brad's new man

Angelina Jolie's just one of the boys. Not only by being a butt-kicking bombshell in Wanted or the Tomb Raider series, but truly transforming into a man for her role in Salt, an is-she-isn't-she? espionage action-thriller that casts one of the most famous and bankable bisexuals as a tenacious CIA agent who's framed as a sleeper spy.

Jolie's character is Evelyn Salt, who freaks and hides when a walk-in outs her—resulting in a sweaty-palms-producing popcorn flick that finds the 35-year-old doing daredevil stunts: balancing on skyscrapers, hop-scotching across trucks and fighting off men almost twice her size.

The actress is toothpick-tiny—and also, on this particular day at a Ritz-Carlton suite in Washington, D.C., just before the film's July 23 release, she's all woman. With a black knee-length skirt, flowing locks and those famous pursed lips that exaggerate her cheek bones, she's a picture-perfect beauty who seemingly walked out from one of the countless magazine covers she's graced.

And yet, here Jolie is, speaking about women in action films, tips her drag-doing Salt co-stars gave her on being a gender-bending badass and Brad Pitt's reaction to her doing dude.

Chris Azzopardi: Salt is based in reality, but there are all these crazy action scenes. Where's the limit in those scenes so people still believe the story?

Angelina Jolie: Everything had to be somehow possible. Even if it was stretched, even if the trucks on the freeway were wild, it's still not impossible. Crazy—but not impossible. [ Laughs ] It's the opposite of actually every action movie I've ever done, because there's never really been a female action movie based in reality. They're always fantasy. I've done most of 'em. [ Laughs ]

CA: The character was originally written for a man, so what else changed about this character?

Angelina Jolie: Well, I'm not Edwin. [ Laughs ] We said, "We can't start to turn this into a girl movie because that's where people have failed in the past." When they write something on purpose for a woman, it's always about being a woman. So, we said, "We have to make her darker, and we have to make her meaner than the boys."

CA: So you're not Edwin, but for a few minutes, you are a man.

Angelina Jolie: I am! I couldn't help myself!

CA: What was it like to cross-dress?

Angelina Jolie: Oh, it was great! You realize every lead in this movie [ including Liev Schreiber in Taking Woodstock and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Kinky Boots ] has cross-dressed? It's just the greatest thing. I'm surprised that picture hasn't got out: the three of us next to each other, in our matching drag photos. They were very supportive. [ Laughs ]

CA: Did Liev or Chiwetel give you tips?

Angelina Jolie: They gave me tips, yeah. They just basically said, "Go fully into it and enjoy it." That's what they did. I loved it. We called him Johnny for some reason. It was really weird.

Phillip [ Noyce, the director ] could hardly talk to me. Nobody could talk to me. It wasn't as much what he looked like; it was when I spoke, when it was my voice coming out of him.

Brad came to visit me once and I said, "You don't want to come; I'm going to be the man." And he said, "It won't bother me. It's you. Whatever." Then he came, and I was changing, so I was half-woman, half-man. [ He was ] so creeped out by that! [ Laughs ]

CA: Did you have an influence on desexualizing Salt?

Angelina Jolie: It was extremely important to me [ to desexualize her ] , because I just felt that she was better than that. Not that it wouldn't have been fun to do if it was appropriate in a scene, but it just felt like if we can find a way to not need that, let's not.

CA: Your character builds bombs and rewires systems...

Angelina Jolie: My MacGyver scene!

CA: Did you pick up any skills while you were doing this movie?

Angelina Jolie: We actually took one or two elements out of the bomb-building [ scene ] so it couldn't be re-created, but yeah [ laughs ] , with a few extra elements, that's one.

You learn the oddest things when you're an actor. You come home and your kids say, "What did you do?" "I built a bomb."

CA: You're rather fearless, but did anything about doing your own stunts scare you?

Angelina Jolie: Only the last kill. I was worried I was going to snap my arm. All the people playing the extras in the entire room didn't know what was going to happen because they [ the crew ] said to me, "You can't rehearse it, really. You just gotta go." So—we just did it. They [ extras ] were so shocked that they really reacted, and then everybody started applauding [ laughs ] . It was like doing a stage play.

CA: Because Salt is so strong and smart and badass, what do you think the role says about women?

Angelina Jolie: I've never underestimated women, so I'm not surprised to start seeing women do these things. That's why we didn't actually approach it as, "Salt's a woman;" we just approached it as, "Salt's a badass and happens to be a woman and this should be no real huge surprise for anybody."

CA: Shooting in New York or Washington, D.C., are there smells or views that help you create the character?

Angelina Jolie: Yeah, absolutely. These places are so specific, and Washington is a place where you can feel the power of things that get done—or the frustration of things that don't get done. [ Laughs ] But when you're running through the park and you have all the monuments around you, it's impossible not to feel what that means to a movie, especially if the movie is about the CIA.

CA: From a character perspective, where would you like to see Salt go next if there is a sequel?

Angelina Jolie: It depends how [ this one ] goes. If it does [ well ] , then we're all going to jump in and try to figure that out. We've been joking: "Could there be a disaster in every resort across the Americas, across Europe, and the world? You know, can we go to Fiji for no reason?"


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