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While partner Brad Pitt took the kids for lessons in preparing dim sum, Angelina Jolie was busy charming the Chinese press corps at a briefing in Shanghai’s art deco Peninsula hotel and tantalizing everyone with the prospect of a follow-up to her smash hit, Maleficent.
The Disney live-action fairytale opened with a $170.6 million global box-office haul and is due to bow in China on June 20.
Jolie directed the upcoming Unbroken, her second outing as a director, and she has spoken of her desire to act less and direct more, but when asked what her next role would be, she also hinted that she might be back as the titular villain in Maleficent.
“It’s kind of hard to top her, she was pretty fun. Maybe I’ll get the chance to play her again,” said Jolie.
“I’m very happy to begin a directing career. I didn’t know if I’d be able to successfully make this change. I love telling stories. You learn so much about life. In my case, both films I’ve done so far deal with history, so it’s a very full experience, and you work very closely with the crew. So I love directing, and I would like to direct more. I think I’d like to do less acting and more directing, and I’m fortunate,” she said.
In China, Maleficent is one of a number of big Hollywood movies that will open this month. The Tom Cruise starrer Edge of Tomorrow opens on June 6, Godzilla and The Guardians bow on June 13, Maleficent, Automata and Grace of Monaco open on June 20 and Transformers: Age of Extinction will open day-and-date with its U.S. opening on June 27.
Jolie was not worried about the competition.
“What sets [the film] apart is that it has action and it does have a lot of adventure, but it is something that you haven’t seen before. There is something very unique to this film. It has a message in it that is very strong,” she said.
She also spoke of the experience of working with her daughter Vivienne, who plays the younger Aurora in the movie.
“Brad and I never had intentions of turning our children into actors. When I was on the set I was quite physically scary for children, and when little kids would visit the set and see me in person they would cry — one little kid froze for a good five minutes staring at me,” she said.
“We realized it would be very hard for a young actor or actress to do that scene, where she has to like me so much. But Vivienne of course doesn’t see a monster, she only sees her mommy, and she happens to look like Aurora. She was the only child that could do it, and it was so much fun for me to be able to work with her,” said Jolie.
Jolie heard the news about the film’s global box-office tally en route to China, and she spoke of her delight.
“This type of film is one that you do for the audience, and you hope that people will come and bring their children and share in the joy. It thrills me that people are enjoying the movie,” said Jolie.
“I believe that it’s very important in life to do things that scare you. The idea of playing this character in the movie scared me a bit because she was somebody I loved as a child, and this is such a big performance and such a big voice that there is no halfway to go about it as an artist, to take it on. The script was very moving, one of the best I’d read. It’s so moving,” she said.
She spoke of her delight at discovering China for the first time and said she was finding out about Chinese directors and artists and hoped to collaborate with them at some point.
“I would hope someone in China would reach out,” she said.
“I try not to assume before I come to a country, and I try to be very open to new experiences. I loved the Long Museum of Contemporary Art, and I loved the French Concession. I loved being here with my children and seeing what other moms and dads do with their children and realizing all the things we have in common,” she said.
“Shanghai is very, very elegant,” she said.
One of the places the family visited was Shanghai’s Long (Dragon) Museum of Contemporary Art, which is the second museum set up in two years in the city by the art collector Wang Wei and her husband, Liu Yiqian.
Pitt, who angered Chinese authorities with Seven Years in Tibet and was banned from the country, was basically along to look after the kids, but he likely was also dipping his toe in the water to get a sense of the China market, now the world’s second largest.
“Right now, they’re doing dim sum classes with their dad,” Jolie said of her kids. “The most wonderful thing for us is we’ve gone for walks. Local families have been very gracious and welcoming. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
A big driver for Maleficent‘s $70 million North American debut were girls and women. The female audience is also a key demographic for the movie in China, and Jolie spoke of some of the complex women she had portrayed over the years.
“I never get cast as normal. People often perceive the characters that I play as being very strong, but they are often vulnerable. To me it’s very interesting to be able to show all sides of a woman, maternal, emotional and also open and very strong,” she said.
At the end of the briefing, she was presented with a birthday cake and the assembled crew and a fair smattering of journalists sang “Shengri Kuaile,” (“Happy Birthday”) in Chinese.
Asked if she would keep something from her costume as Maleficent, she immediately replied: “My horns!”
“It goes without saying!”
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