Angelina Jolie: The Movies that Define Me

Kevin Polowy, Senior Editor

Angelina Jolie vividly remembers seeing Sleeping Beauty for the first time as a child, and being awed by the horn-hatted villain Maleficent. “It was almost like seeing Marlene Dietrich for the first time,” Jolie said. “You just think, ‘Who is this big powerful force that seems so elegant as a woman?’ She kind of had that 1930s, 1940s [look]. And even though she’s wicked, she seems to be having a very, very good time. So I just found her kind of mesmerizing.” Perhaps even then she knew it was her destiny to put a certain beauty to sleep, as she does in Disney’s new live-action Maleficent, which opens May 30. But what other films had a lasting impression on her? Yahoo Movies met with the star and director (her sophomore effort behind the camera, Unbroken, opens Christmas) to ask her about the movies that have stuck in her head from when she was a child to when she watches with her own kids.

What are some of the earliest movies you remember watching?
I remember obscure things like Calamity Jane with Doris Day. I remember The Fixer with Alan Bates, which is not a movie anyone should’ve taken a child to. I was taken when I was very young because my mom had a crush on him. My mom loved Al Pacino movies, so [we watched] Dog Day Afternoon. I kind of grew up on Sidney Lumet movies… I definitely remember that period in film, and that having an effect.

Do you remember the first time you saw your father in a movie?
I don’t remember it, but I was told that I was taken to see The Champ, which I still haven’t seen [since], when I was really little, which was apparently not a good idea because I got very emotional and thought he died.

What was the movie that made you want to become an actor?
I don’t know. My mom wanted me to be an actor… I always liked the adventurous movies, if I’d see Lawrence of Arabia or something like that. I liked the journey you could take, the emotional journey, but then there’s also just the real journey of going to places where you can learn about other cultures and be other people and explore life in this kind of extreme way. That was something that I wanted.

Is there one movie that you find yourself quoting?
I’m sure Scarface when I was younger [laughs].  There was quite a lot of Pacino, definitely, for a period. And that will creep up again I’m sure, whenever I’m angry.

As you’ve moved behind the camera, are there films that you look at when you’re preparing to direct something?
Yes. All the great films. I think everybody does the same thing… and fortunately Scorsese has his film library [The Film Foundation], he can guide you to all the great films. ForUnbroken, I watched Sidney Lumet’s The Hill. That was one of my inspirations, just [looking at] how clean and how it was shot, and the humanity. And of course for that one Papillonand River Kwai… We watched a lot of old footage, we watched a lot of historical stuff.

Do you guys have a favorite movie to watch as a family?
Well, we tend to watch the new things coming out. We, like everybody else, watched Frozen forever, because of Vivienne. All the kids are different ages. Mad likes horror movies, so I have to sit through horror movies with him, and those scare me.

I really have loved a lot of the animated movies for children. I love the Despicable Mes, I really do like those [laughs]. We try to do Disney nature. Bears was the last one we did, that was great.

Do you find yourself watching more children’s movies than adult movies?
Yes. [Laughs] Very much so.

So do you have that moment of relief when the kids go to bed and you can choose the movies?
We do, but we tend to then just watch the news or some documentary channel. So the films are the kid’s films. But fortunately, a lot of the kid’s films are really great. Brad and I went to an awards show recently and we didn’t know a lot of other things going on but when it comes to, like, Best Animated Movie, we then have a real debate about which one should [win]. That’s where we completely know. Like, we’ve got a dog in that fight, we’re aware of that.

So was Frozen your pick this past year?
It was. I really liked [Pharrell’s] song “Happy” [from Despicable Me 2]. And of course working with Disney, I liked Frozen. My kids love Frozen, so when you see how happy it makes them… But they also really loved Despicable Me 2, so those were the two.

Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP