Angelina Jolie talks about Alexander
Angelina Jolie’s most memorable costar in Alexander was not Colin Farrell, who played the title role, nor Val Kilmer, who played her husband. It was the snake she held in her hands and allowed to slither all over her shoulders. As Olympias, Alexander’s mother, Jolie has a snake in every scene.
“I love ‘em,” Jolie said. “I suppose I like the thing that everybody doesn’t. I think they’re magnificent creatures, and I think it’s interesting in the film. It’s something that people are afraid of, to conquer it and to be at one with it. I believe in conquering our fears immediately or getting over anything you hesitate with.”
There was no snake repellant or standby antidotes for any accidental bites. “They weren’t defanged or anything,” Jolie continued. “They fed them the day before so they wouldn’t be hungry. I mean, really, that’s what it was. And I just tried to get to know a lot of them and spend days with them so they’d hang on me. I’d spend a lot of days just walking around Pinewood studios with snakes attached to me, trying to get them, so I could have that comfort that she has. [The snake handlers] kind of said to me, ‘At worst, they bite you.’ But I don't think they were highly poisonous. It would be more like they bite, they aim for your face, they bite your face and the worst that’s going to happen is you’re going to have a bite mark and you’ll live.”
The only thing about the snakes that phased Jolie was incorporating young actors into their scenes. When Alexander is a child, the actor portraying him had to face the same snakes and Jolie. “I was okay with that for me, but I was nervous when there was a little kid that I, as a responsible adult, had to be carrying a large snake around the six-year-old and say, ‘Kick it.’ This little kid’s first day on a movie ever in his life and he’s surrounded by this room full of fire and snakes all over the bed and the floor and this psychotic woman he’s never met snuggling up to him in bed and putting snakes on his head. He was just great.”
As a young public figure herself, and a new mother, Jolie found a lot to relate to in Olympias. “I loved her actually. I mean, I felt that if I lived at that time, with the dangers she had and the threats she had and the lack of power she had as a woman, I would not have been that different from her. And I also just saw her as a mother who really would push her son at a time that if he didn’t get the throne, he didn’t acquire a certain kind of strength and ability and greatness, he would probably just die or be killed or be exiled. So out of concern, out of love for your own, just to come from this place that seems very much like the horrible mafia father, but in fact it was for his own survival that she was focused on, made it very easy for me to focus on thinking of my own son and what he had to do to protect himself from bad things that could hurt him.”
All of the actors in Alexander speak in their own natural accents, including Farrell’s Irish drawl. Jolie, an American, created her own accent to blend in with the variety of cultures in the film. “She was referred to often as the outsider. Some people called her Barbarian, so it was mainly, what are the boys doing? What do the men sound like? And how can I sound different from them to give that? So I mixed, I didn’t want it to be one specific sound, so it’s sort of rolled Rs from a certain sound, Ts from a certain sound and I kind of blended this sound that will hopefully just make people feel like they were in a period, watching something that felt like history. And then also, because she had this way of being somewhat like a socialist, I wanted it to be a sound that I thought could be mysterious and hypnotic. It couldn’t be sharp, and when she screams, you take her seriously because it wasn’t too silly. All those kind of things. Just basically just trying to find a sound that made her the outsider was the main thing.”
Working on several scenes with Farrell as her son, Jolie found they have a lot in common. “It’s funny, because he and I both pace. When I’m on the phone or anything, but [especially] in between takes, to keep my energy up and to keep focused, like when I think, I pace. And Colin paces, which we found when we paced around the first moment, we kept running into each other. We’d actually go into separate rooms and we’d run into each other in the doorway. It was really funny, so we both had this high energy, and then when they’d say action, we’d be like [growl].”
Jolie continues to visit lands of political strife in her own humanitarian efforts. She tries to make a difference wherever possible, but “every country is different. Some countries that I’ve gone to and I can build a school and I can build a well or I can help out or I can physically hand out food and do things like that. And therefore it’s very different. You can’t fund building schools that could just be burned down tomorrow. You can’t pass out things to kids that are going to be ripped away from them and they’re going to be beaten up for it. You have to be very careful.”
Particularly, her recent trip to the Sudan was complicated. “It ended up being more of a mission of calling a press conference there and trying to clear up some discussions or rumors that people have. The Sudanese government was saying that the refugees were coming back and that things were settling. I think they’d like to believe that, they’d like people to believe that. They’d like to start just getting lots of aid coming in and everything’s fine. But they need to get security over there first and they don’t have it yet. So to be able to say okay, what I’ve seen is this is not true. And [I got] to be able to at least be a voice out there saying stop that and stop talking about it or stop possibly bringing people into areas where they’re going to get hurt, and just to be a voice for the people I met in the field.”
Though she will continue in her efforts, Jolie said we should not expect her to run for office any time soon. “I won’t because I’m too focused internationally I think. There are too many things I want to do and I don’t want one person telling me what I need to do, so now I can kind of be my own free agent and do what I feel and speak on behalf of many things.”
See Jolie in Alexander, now playing.
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