Throwback Thursday: In 1995, Angelina Jolie Played a 'Hacker'

Hackers Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Hackers Still - H 2014

As Sony deals with the fallout from being hacked, The Hollywood Reporter looks back at the actress-turned-director's techno-thriller 'Hackers,' which was lauded for being technologically ahead of its time

This story first appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

While Sony Pictures Entertainment has been dealing with the fallout from having its computer system hacked beginning Nov. 24, two decades ago MGM/United Artists was dealing with the less-traumatic launch of Hackers, a techno-thriller about rollerblading teenagers who get their jollies from breaking into data systems. The 1995 film was lauded for being technologically ahead of its time and has become a cult favorite. However, THR's review said it "so relentlessly assaults the viewer with special effects and hormonal protagonists that after a few reels one longs to push the escape key and go home." (The $15 million film grossed $7.5 million.)

"We wanted to tap into a cultural phenomenon that no one was yet addressing," says then MGM/UA vp production Jeff Kleeman. "But our marketing department, concerned that the general public would have no idea what hacking was, postponed the release until after Keanu Reeves' Johnny Mnemonic, hoping it would educate the audience. In the end, both films were ahead of their times." One of Hackers' "hormonal protagonists" was Angelina Jolie, in only her second feature, playing a pouty high school student in a see-through top.

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She was chosen over Hilary Swank, Liv Tyler and Heather Graham for the role. Director Iain Softley, 58, who had just come off making Backbeat, about ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, says he recalls Jolie, then 18, in casting as being "very driven, very interested in pushing boundaries. She had very long hair and had no qualms about cutting it for the part." Jolie married Hackers co-star Jonny Lee Miller, who now stars on CBS' Elementary, in 1996; they divorced in 1999. One other unknown in the cast was 26-year-old Marc Anthony playing a Secret Service agent. He later married Jennifer Lopez. "The pitch to UA was, we were going to find a group of actors that people would look back on as having emerged from Hackers," says Softley. "I think we accomplished that."