Angelina Jolie has a motto: If you want something done right in Hollywood, just do it yourself. Five years ago, when the actress and fillmmaker was writing the screenplay for In the Land of Blood and Honey, a love story amid the Bosnian War, she wrestled with the idea of turning it over to another director. In the end, however, Jolie, 40, had a nagging sense that her story would somehow be misinterpreted — so she added another credit to her resume.
"The idea that somebody would take it and interpret it — and possibly interpret it the wrong way — scared me," the multi-hyphenate told the Directors Guild of America in a new interview. "So by default, I chose to direct it myself."
In the years since, Jolie has followed the same pattern, including in By the Sea, out this fall. The twist with her latest project? She's working alongside husband Brad Pitt in the marital drama. "It's probably not an accident that the films that I care about happen to be about issues that matter to me, stories that I want to tell. If you're going to spend two years of your life on something it has to matter to you, you have to be passionate about it," Jolie said.
And there are worse things to do than spend 24/7 with the love of your life. In their new film, Jolie and her husband of nearly a year are playing against type — as unhappy spouses on vacation in France. For Jolie, being on screen with Pitt in such a way was "heavy." What's more: They filmed the movie while on their honeymoon.
"I'd be directing myself and him in a scene where we're having a fight, and I'd be pulling out the parts [of him] that have an aggression toward me or when you're frustrated with each other — it was very heavy," admitted the star, who also appeared with her husband, 51, in 2005's Mr. & Mrs. Smith. "We kept joking that all of the crew felt like they were living in a house where the parents were fighting and you don't know where to stand or where to look."
In the tough scenes especially, Jolie would lead her Malta-based cast and crew by example. "I think people watch how you present yourself," she said. "If you come in and you're there to roll up your sleeves and work hard, you've got a lot of ideas and you're there to help solve problems, then you become that person to them."
Now that she's developed a knack for directing, Jolie sees that as her end game. "What surprised me about directing is how much I loved it and how happy I am to be on the set. What I realized [years ago] is that I never loved acting,” Jolie summed up. "To me the strangest thing is that I've just spent the majority of my life in one aspect of this business, and because I was fortunate enough to become successful I never questioned whether I felt at home, and found out later in life that I'm much happier directing."
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