“Of course I always wanted to work with Johnny Depp!” laughs Angelina Jolie. “What actress hasn’t? I’ve thought he was the coolest thing for years. I practically grew up with him and had such a crush on him in ‘Edward Scissorhands’!”
Jolie has got her wish and stars with Depp in the thriller “The Tourist,” a pairing that had gossip columnists salivating before filming had even started.
In “The Tourist,” Jolie portrays Elise Clifton-Ward, who deliberately crosses the path of U.S. tourist Frank Tupelo (Depp) on a train from Paris to Venice, Italy. Elise chooses Frank as a decoy, pretending he’s her lover, Alexander Pierce, a man wanted by the police. The pair then have to escape both the law and the mobster whose money Alexander had stolen.
“If you want romance and art and beauty, how could you do better than Venice and Paris?” Jolie tells The Japan Times. “The whole thing is a fabulous package.”
With the romantic settings and a costar she has long idolized, one might be excused for wondering if the project put Jolie in a romantic frame of mind during the shoot. Both actors have been voted sexiest people in the world by one publication or another and news of a steamy shower scene (which was later cut) generated a lot of Internet chatter.
Jolie is partnered with actor Brad Pitt and the two have six children together, but the star has been quoted before as saying that the offbeat Depp was very much her “type.” This led to comparisons with her off-screen role as the “other woman” when she starred opposite Pitt (who was then married to Jennifer Aniston) in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
Jolie says she and Depp got along famously during the filming — like brother and sister.
“Romantic thoughts are inevitable, aren’t they? But when you’re on a tough schedule, making a very expensive movie and getting caught up in the action and being on location, which is far less controlled than a studio setting . . . you pretty much have to act out the romance.”
Depp is in a relationship (noncontractual like Jolie and Pitt) of 12 years with French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis and the couple have two children together.
The German-born director and cowriter of “The Tourist” is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, of which Angelina notes: “When I first heard his name, I was . . . surprised and a bit intimidated. Could I call him Flo for short? And yet his full birth name is much longer than the four parts.
“I really admired his movie ‘The Lives of Others.’ It was so well done and so . . . European. I mean it’s all about relationships, about getting interested in people and how they interact. It’s not all about special effects or chases.” That film, from 2006, is about people spying on one another in Berlin in 1984, and it earned von Donnersmarck an Oscar.
“The (‘Tourist’) script was very literate, very intriguing,” Jolie says. “I think that’s a key to the movie itself. You want to know what’s going to happen next. It’s such an intriguing premise.”
On the face of it, Depp’s role seems to be the passive one, with Jolie’s scheming Elise overwhelming him. But in most of his pictures, Depp is often more memorable than his leading ladies, who are often young (as in “Alice in Wonderland”).
“I’m getting older by the minute,” Depp jokes. “I know a lot about facials now!”
Depp admits that he is usually the elder partner in any on-screen pairings with actresses nowadays, but hearing that Jolie had a teenage crush on him turns out to be the last straw.
“Oh God, I’m not that old! . . . I don’t think,” he laughs. “No, I knew we’d work together someday and this story was very interesting, sort of a departure for me. I don’t often get to do roles that end up sexy, and with such . . . such a womanly actress as Angie. But being a ‘tourist’ was a great ride — and I mean that in a chaste and friendly way.”
Depp also heaps praise on director von Donnersmack, saying he is a true artist.
“Florian is a wonderful director, he says. “Everyone liked working with him, and I think he lifted this project far away from being any kind of a genre-studio picture. I am proud of it.”
The writer-director is almost 206 cm tall, was educated partly in Munich and has a degree in philosophy from Oxford. “He has several facets to him,” Jolie says. “I mean, he impresses you just when you meet him.” Jolie also found it intriguing that “The Tourist” script begins “with a woman exploiting a man, which is the reverse of the majority of screenplays. So the man has to be psychologically strong to keep up with her and what she gets him involved with, and Johnny has this wonderful very quiet, very deep strength.
“It isn’t a movie about reverse exploitation . . . it’s more complicated than that. But the fact that the woman, Elise, is an instigator, naturally that appeals to me.”
Jolie is known for playing strong women, heroines and role models, in her films. She hesitates to explain how she chooses scripts to go with, however, due to demand for her in Hollywood.
“If I said what I look for in a script, I’d probably wind up swamped with scripts made to order. The thing is, they can’t be by-the-numbers or formulaic. It’s about good writing, just as much as it’s about a good premise.”
As for being a role model, she again resists being pigeon-holed.
“What is a role model to one person or to one culture may not be to another,” she says. “The more I travel, the more world-cultured I become, the more I realize there are many ways of living, of looking or believing. There is no one way, and anyone who claims there is only one way is likely a zealot or fanatic.”
Jolie is known as much for her activism and humanitarian work as her acting. She has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Indeed, these missions are how she found three of her adopted children. The role has had a great impact on her way of thinking.
“There are different roads and paths, whether in being an inspiration or a help to people or in improving your own life,” she says. “I think moderation is the key. It’s like Buddhists say, the middle path is the best way to travel through life, avoiding excesses and extremes or the temptation to be either too severe or too self-indulgent.
“That’s philosophy, isn’t it? When I found out Florian had a degree in philosophy, I was fascinated! I mean, how many Hollywood directors would have that? Not that you need that to be a good moviemaker, but I think the more facets anyone has, the more interesting they are as an individual.”
In Hollywood, many speculated that “The Tourist” might have done better at the box office if it weren’t set in Europe, despite the beautiful locations. A prevailing feeling is that most U.S. moviegoers prefer a story (excepting the James Bond series) set in familiar surroundings. However, von Donnersmarck points out that the U.S. market is a shrinking part of the global market, as its population shrinks in proportion to the rest of the world, and overseas audiences are more likely to embrace exotic locales.
While Depp occasionally works on smaller films — sometimes quirky ones that do relatively little business in the United States — Jolie mainly sticks to big-studio motion pictures. Reporters are not usually supposed to ask her about this, but you can’t help but wonder if she worries about her career being cut short due to her gender.
“I don’t always feel I have to be the center of attraction.” Jolie says. For instance, she played the mother of Colin Farrell’s Alexander the Great in the 2004 film “Alexander.” “I work quite a lot, but not all the time — I’m not driven — because I know that by a certain age actresses do get relegated to smaller roles, as in comparison to someone like Clint Eastwood, who can keep starring into his 70s.” (Now in his 80s, Eastwood primarily directs.)
Indeed, Jolie knows firsthand how the business can treat a woman. Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, was an actress who fell in love with actor Jon Voight, who later left her for a younger woman. It basically ended her acting career.
“In the business,” Depp adds, “we (Jolie and him) are each so lucky to be in the position we are in. Angie knows how tough it is, even more so for actresses, and yet she really goes for it and enjoys it and she makes it enjoyable for everyone. She’s a pro, and a fantastic costar and person.”
“The Tourist” opens in theaters on March 5. Read Kaori Shoji’s review on today’s Re:Film page.