The fantasy film “Maleficent” (released in 3-D and in IMAX) is the untold, re-imagined story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty.” A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent as an adult (played by Angelina Jolie) rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal — an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone.
Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor (played by Sharlto Copley) and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora (played by Elle Fanning), who is supposed to grow up to become Sleeping Beauty. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom — and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well. Here is what Jolie and Fanning said a “Maleficent” press conference in Paris.
Can you talk about your “Maleficent” characters and revisiting a classic tale such a “Sleeping Beauty”?
Jolie: I think it was both a pleasure and an extreme challenge to have such an extraordinary original. And we wanted to make sure we did justice to it and paid respect to all that was done before. I know with Maleficent, I loved her as a child. I was scared of her, but I was fascinated by her. And so, I just didn’t want to do anything that would not be good enough for all the people who responded to her over the years.
Fanning: Sleeping Beauty was always my favorite princess. I felt like I identified with her the best, just because pink was my favorite color, and she always wore the pink dress and had the long blonde hair. And I had the long blonde hair. So she was my princess.
And do to get to play her was so amazing. I was so excited. Obviously, I watched the animated film so many times, but I watched again it just before we started filming, because I wanted to make sure. She has certain hand gestures that she does. Her posture is very specific. I wanted to make sure I kind of brought that to her. I’m such a fan, and for all the fans that are fans of Sleeping Beauty, I wanted to make sure I incorporated it for them.
How did you build the on-screen chemistry between Maleficent and Aurora?
Jolie: There are things we can’t say to explain everything about our relationship, because our relationship is very much the center of the film. It’s part of the mystery of the film. But the nice thing about it is that you do know so much more in this story. We go back and we understand who Maleficent became the way that she is.
[Maleficent and Aurora] meet for the first time when [Maleficent] is cursing her as a baby. And then, it continues on in the years that follow and how we affect each other’s lives.
It was a beautiful script written by Linda Woolverton. The goal was not just to entertain children or to retell a story. The goal was to try to see if these deeper themes of really understanding who somebody was, not judging them by what they seem to be. Maternal instincts, a certain sisterhood, a friendship, a love of your country, your land and trying to protect it — they’re all themes, but at the heart of it is … I can’t say.
At the heart of it is something you have to see the movie for, but I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s a beautiful film. I think it’s, hopefully, fun and exciting and make the children love it. But at its core, it’s also something that has deep meaning, which is what I think the parents want their kids to see.
What was your biggest challenge in filming “Maleficent”?
Fanning: For me, it was doing so much green screen and special effects, because I had never done that before. Every time I had a hair change or a wardrobe change at all, I would have to go and do these scans.
You stand on a turntable, and they turn you inch by inch. You stand there stiff. You can’t move at all. And they screen your body. I never had to do that.
And also, just using your imagination in way as never before, because you’re staring at nothing, but you just have to create in your mind a little fairy or whatever it’s going to look like. You have to come up with it yourself.
Jolie: The challenge is that you can’t play a character like this halfway at all. And so to embrace fully who she is … I think the first time I had my horns on and my heels on and my thing and you’re walking around with a staff and her voice is so particular. I studied a lot of British theater actresses and did some voice training for my own voice, because I’m not a theater actress. Everything was bigger.
But on the first day, I knocked my horns on the trailer. I couldn’t see properly in my contacts. I couldn’t figure out how to work my staff — everything was a bit clunky. My cloaks, everything about it felt quite awkward. And then, I scared my own children when they saw me. There’s a few things that had to be worked out.
But then, the fun of it is when you get it all together, you just take a deep breath and say, “OK, if I’m having fun, then I hope the audience will have fun, so we’ll do it together. Don’t be shy and try to give it all you’ve got.”
For more info: “Maleficent” website