Here, Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning join our Josh Smith for a special episode of GLAMOUR UNFILTERED to discuss their rocky roads to self-discovery, the times Angelina felt like, ‘she couldn’t breathe,’ and the power they find in vulnerability…
“I don’t feel like I’ve ever been without criticism or judgement,” Angelina Jolie shares as we discuss how, like her iconic character Maleficent, she has constantly had to overcome critics and her own self critic.
Joined by her co-star and onscreen adopted daughter, Elle Fanning, the pair are in a remarkably candid mood as we discuss their return to the roles which have personally shaped their own lives in the aptly named sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
This time around, a formidable meddling queen (in the form of Michelle Pfeiffer), sets her sights on causing a rift between Maleficent and Aurora, played by the ethereal Elle Fanning. Let’s just say it’s queens at dawn!
I was in bits watching this towards the end, like full on sobs in the cinema. What was so amazing for me is the journey of self-discovery both of your characters go on. What has your own journey of self-discovery been like for you and what would you say have been the biggest turning points in that?
Angelina: I’ve had many. It is very important to me that the film speaks about finding your own true self and being your true self no matter how people see you or what they feel you should be. And to accept each other and to want for other people to be. I see someone not being themselves and I get a choking feeling, they can’t breathe. So many people are living that way, whether it be through the politics of the country they’re living in or the home they live in and it’s horrible. I certainly haven’t had situations like some and so I don’t want to complain. But I have had things that have made me feel I can’t breathe, and I’ve had to fight to find that.
How did you fight to find that?
Angelina: My children help me. You go through a certain point of pain or loss and you either go down or get back up.
What’s that been like for you Elle?
Elle: You find to find your – for me, it’s such a big question, I’m still growing. But for everyone, you have to find your fight. My mum always says, ‘the way you handle disappointments is what defines you,’ and I’ve always took that. You can do one of two things: you can get back up or drown in your sorrows about it and so you have to learn to rise above the water. I think that’s a great little saying she says.
Maleficent has so many of her own critics around her. She also has her own self critic, too. What is your relationship with your own self critic been like?
Angelina: I don’t feel like I’ve ever been without criticism or judgement. I was a bit odd growing up, a bit of a punk and I was different. I was never popular, regular and I never wanted to be, so it was OK. I never really sought approval, maybe because I had a strong mother who loved me. I’m self-critical, I’m really hard of myself that I don’t do enough. I wonder if I’m being a good enough mum, good enough person, if I’m doing enough.
But I do know when I put my head on the pillow at night, I know who I am inside, and I know I am a good person and I wish people well – when you know your inner self. And my kids, my kids would just tell you I’m silly. That tells me everything I need to know. When they have a problem and come to me, they think I’m funny and I tend to be the one who gets the band aid so that’s all I need to know about me.
Elle: People are going to judge everyone, sadly that’s the world we live in. People love to judge. People want to read negative stories, that’s the way it works. They’ll click and that and see the dirt. I haven’t been someone whose read what critics say and been crazy about it. Also, I feel like don’t give them power. They’re saying something mean about you, don’t give them power. They hate that more which I love. You hate that I don’t care. I am sensitive to things but don’t give them the power.
One of the most amazing things about this film is this incredible cross generational relationship. I know with your work as an activist, you’ve done so many amazing things to raise younger generations of women up. When you come to doing a film like this how important is it for you to project that message?
Angelina: It’s very important. I was very close to my mother, so I’ve always felt the strength of women. But I’ve spent a lot of time in societies where the women, or certainly many of the women, are oppressed but many where it is, and almost always is, the strong centre of the community. I’ve never not seen the community of women or the strength or never not relied on it.
It’s very important to be strong as women, be together, have that community and support each other. I also think, which this film says, it’s very important to learn from, be close to and identify the strengths of the men around you. There are many great men in the film and that was really important to us that it wasn’t isolated, that you find strength together as women which many are trying to do now, speaking up and somehow that means separate from the men in your life. It’s very important to come together and help them also understand.
We’re not going to make progress if we don’t bring men along for the ride, right?
Angelina: There are sons, fathers and husbands, boyfriends. Women in our nature, we’re very nurturing. A lot of people are but it is not in our nature – we’re not born to fight. Maleficent is not born to fight – well, maybe she’s born to fight, she may have it in her – but I think you’re born to fight in what you believe in. You don’t want to be fighting to survive and I think there’s a big difference. We have to help a lot of women get passed that place where they’re just fighting to survive.
There’s a lot of power in vulnerability. When Maleficent taps into her vulnerability, it empowers her even more which I found profound. Can you remember a time in your own lives when you’ve tapped into your own vulnerability and been like this has made me a much stronger person?
Elle: To me, the actors I love to watch the most are the most vulnerable and open to the audience. For me, I always try to remember that, and that weakness can be your strength too. I actually love feeling vulnerable. Is that odd to say? There’s something so open and raw and you’re just there and for me it can be very cathartic to have emotional vulnerable experience. Also, a lot of the time of course you get onto the set and become family but in a way you’re around strangers so in a funny way, I feel more comfortable because they don’t know me so I can go there. If that was in front of my family or friends, maybe I wouldn’t want to show that side of myself but on set I feel more comfortable because we’re all working together to do this thing and they don’t necessarily know what I’m going through. But it’s a space where I can go in the woods and scream. Vulnerability is key in my life, for my art but also my existence.
Angelina: You do seem like you’ve always been, and it’s part of the strength of Aurora and part of the strength of Elle. She’s never shut off her emotional life. She is somebody who wears it and wears her softness and who is strong enough to wear that softness which a lot of people are not.
What’s your relationship with vulnerability been like?
Angelina: Very similar to Maleficent’s. We’re not comfortable with it!