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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 16, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 29
Angelina Jolie mans up
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Angelina Jolie mans up

Salt actress talks about her sex change, kicking butt in her new spy thriller, and Brad's new man

by Chris Azzopardi - SGN Contributing Writer

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 actress doing daredevil stunts: balancing on skyscrapers, hop-scotching trucks, and fighting off men almost twice her size.

Jolie's 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 that 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.]

Azzopardi: The character was originally written for a man, so what else changed about this character?

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."

Azzopardi: So you're not Edwin, but for a few minutes, you are a man.

Jolie: I am! I couldn't help myself!

Azzopardi: What was it like to cross-dress?

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.]

Azzopardi: Did Liev or Chiwetel give you tips?

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.]

Azzopardi: Did you have an influence on desexualizing Salt?

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.

Azzopardi: Your character builds bombs and rewires systems -

Jolie: My MacGyver scene!

Azzopardi: Did you pick up any skills while you were doing this movie?

Jolie: We actually took one or two elements out of the bomb-building [scene] so it couldn't be re-created, but yeah, with a few extra elements, that's one. [Laughs.] 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."

Azzopardi: You're rather fearless, but did anything about doing your own stunts scare you?

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.

Azzopardi: Because Salt is so strong and smart and badass, what do you think the role says about women?

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."

Azzopardi: Shooting in New York or Washington, D.C., are there smells or views that help you create the character?

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.

Azzopardi: From a character perspective, where would you like to see Salt go next if there is a sequel?

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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