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

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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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