Angelina Jolie Lets Taylor Sheridan Drag Her Through Hell
Taylor Sheridan, who was initially brought in to rewrite the mountain thriller Those Who Wish Me Death, gradually got more involved in the film. When another filmmaker gave up, he called the studio with an offer.
“I said if I could get Angie to do this with me, I would run it for you,” Sheridan said. “They said, ‘Great. You’ll never get Angie. ”
The skepticism of the executives of Warner Bros. was justified. Angelina Jolie, whose priorities center on film, international work and family, hasn’t starred in a live-action movie for six years. Over the past decade, her only main performances have been two Evil films and By the Sea, which she directed and starred alongside her then-husband Brad Pitt.
But Sheridan’s timing was right. Jolie, going through a painful and prolonged divorce, was more interested in a faster and easier role on set. And the role of a Montane smoke jumper haunted by trauma and guilt was potentially cathartic.
“We all have times in our lives when we are broken. And we’re crying and we’re not sure we have anything left in us, ”Jolie said in an interview with Zoom of Los Angeles. “I identified more with a part of her that thought there wasn’t much she could do and hadn’t done it for a long time. To be in this situation and to have a director who is both sensitive and aware of the human experience, to go there and to feel it, but also to push you to find your strength and to move forward.
“It was really what I needed at the time,” Jolie says.
Those Who Wish Me Dead, which hits theaters and on HBO Max on May 14, is an anomaly for other reasons as well. It’s a star-driven genre film that doesn’t rely on some well-known intellectual property made by a big studio. (The film is based on Michael Koryta’s 2014 book.) Like Sheridan’s previous films – To Hell or High Water, Sicario (which he both wrote) and Wind River (which Sheridan wrote and directed), it is a story of blood and justice across a vast and violent American landscape.
“To look like a millennial, that’s very branded to me,” Sheridan says with a laugh. “But what’s unique is that we did it in a studio. It’s a studio movie and they trusted us to go do it. We did it as a 70s movie. They promoted it as a 70s movie. The most important part of the 21st century is the fact that you can show it or go to the theater. “
In “Those Who Wish Me Death,” Jolie’s Hannah Faber meets a 12-year-old boy (Finn Little) in the desert fleeing two assassins. It was filmed in New Mexico in May and June 2019 – a month after Jolie and Pitt were found to be legally single in court. (A custody battle for their six children is ongoing.)
Snow was still falling in the mountains. Aside from the natural surroundings, Sheridan erected a fake forest and set it ablaze. Jolie, an action star in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Salt and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, has performed several of her stunts. Sheridan, used to making films close to the land, had little luxury to offer beyond heaters in the tents and lavish, overbudgetary craft services. He happily remembers the experience as miserable.
“You know, the character takes Angie into emotional hell, then I drug her into physical hell,” Sheridan says from a distant 40’s by a lake in Ontario. “That’s how we made the movie.”
“And I loved every minute of it,” Jolie says, smiling.
Jolie will next be seen in Marvel’s Eternals, by Nomadland director Chloe Zhao – another filmmaker drawn to new stories about old American borders. It was an unexpected break from directing for Jolie, who last helmed the 2017 Cambodian genocide drama First They Killed My Father.
“I prefer to lead, but playing gives me more time at home,” Jolie says. “It’s less of a commitment.”
However, if so, the chances of such performance are increasingly slim. The pandemic, says Jolie, 45, has been a time of reassessment – and movies are a decreasing priority.
“I was sort of spending more time at home for different family reasons. But if I was before devoting half of my time to my international job, I think I will now devote 80% of my time to this other job. I will do less cinematographic work. Don’t give up anything but a lot less, ”says Jolie. “I mentally move on to another period of my life.”
Jolie has been a special envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 2012. She welcomes the recent expansion of refugee admissions to the United States by President Joe Biden, but sees the global crisis worsening, especially since countries battling the pandemic are withdrawing from foreign aid.
“Over the past decade, we have seen the numbers double. We envision 80 million displaced people. A lot of these people are displaced because of the climate and the way it is changing, and that will continue to change, ”Jolie says. “If we don’t take it seriously, we’re going to see a full breakdown of a lot of things for so many people. Or it may be the turning point where we all come together. “
As I juggle with global inequalities and personal turmoil, it’s easy to see how pretty the simple physical demands of those who wish me death would draw Jolie.
“I like characters whose physical journeys parallel the emotional journey they go through,” says Sheridan. “She was gone. It was cold. I was like, “Go to the river” and she would say, “OK, I’m going to the river.” “
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