Angelina Jolie as Fox in "Wanted", opening in the U.S. and Canada on Friday.  The film, released by Universal Pictures, is directed by Timur Bekmambetov and stars James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Common.  (Photos: Jaap Buitendjik/Universal Studios)

Angelina Jolie, Wanted, Yet Ubiquitous

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

June 25, 2008

She's worked hard for the success that the mere mention of her name attached to a film project often guarantees.  On the big screen she is chameleon-like, slipping interchangeably from portraying a woman of strength and substance like Mariane Pearl to being a sexy siren in anime form as Grendel's mother in "Beowulf".  She has been synonymous with the thankless tabloid gossip that accompanies her life with Brad Pitt and the humanitarian efforts they undertake both together and separately yet she seems to wade right through it all.  Water off a duck's back, or in her case, water off a myriad number of tattoos on her back.  And when it comes to feature films Angelina Jolie is wanted -- yet she's everywhere.  Ever since hitting Oscar gold with her performance in "Girl Interrupted" (1999), she hasn't stopped for a breath.  A film featuring Ms. Jolie has been released every year since 1995.  And fortunately -- at least for a great many men in the world -- this will not change with "Wanted", which opens on Friday in the U.S. and Canada. 

Ms. Jolie, mother of one child (and scheduled to give birth to twins in August) and several adopted children, is still only in her early thirties (she turned 33 on June 4.)  Unlike many of her peers she has gained more mileage from her supporting actress Academy Award -- collected in 2000 for her role as a mentally-challenged patient in an asylum of sorts in "Girl" -- than arguably any other supporting actress winner except Cate Blanchett.  Comparatively younger and older Oscar-winning actresses (Anna Paquin and Mercedes Ruehl respectively) have had smaller or virtually non-existent impact on the silver screen post Award win, but the daughter of Jon Voight -- the father she has not always had the closest or warmest relationship with -- has found herself and become closer to Mr. Voight in the process. 

If you looked at your local movie theater marquee over the last year or three you would have seen Angelina Jolie's name above the line in a distinct mix of films: "Mr. And Mr. Smith", a rowdy, loud and sexy action drama (opposite Mr. Pitt) in 2005, where Ms. Jolie played an undercover FBI agent spouse; "The Good Shepherd" (2006), Robert De Niro's directing effort, as an excitable and devoted wife.  Last year, Michael Winterbottom's political drama "A Mighty Heart" saw an Oscar-caliber performance by Ms. Jolie as activist, journalist, author and widow Mariane Pearl, though the Academy didn't see fit to nominate her back in January.  Then last November came her "Beowulf" cameo.  She has played in films opposite Denzel Washington ("The Bone Collector") and Nicholas Cage ("Gone In Sixty Seconds") and has been a sexy sinner with Antonio Banderas in "Original Sin".  Right now, the Oscar winner and humanitarian can be heard, not seen lending her vocal talents on the big screen in the animated film "Kung Fu Panda", which has become an instant smash hit at the box office in North America.  In November Ms. Jolie will be seen playing a mother in distress in the 1920's in Clint Eastwood's "Changeling".

This Friday however, Angelina Jolie takes center stage as the appropriately-named Fox in "Wanted" -- she is wily, fearless, tough and alluring -- and is number one with a bullet as she mentors Wesley, a timid nobody played by James McAvoy to become judge, jury and executioner in a never-ending fight against injustice.  "Wanted", a film whose trailers showcase the hyperkinetic and gymnastic abilities of discharged bullets, is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, a Russian filmmaker who makes his English language debut with "Wanted".  Morgan Freeman, Common, Thomas Kretschmann and Terence Stamp (of "Get Smart") also star in the action film, which is released by Universal Pictures in North America.  The film's lead female character, Fox is an exacting assassin -- perhaps a redundant description -- and as earlier suggested in this paragraph, the world's best at what she does.  Fox is not exactly a major stretch of a role for Ms. Jolie, however.  While every character an actor plays is different, Ms. Jolie has played Lara Croft in two films.  To that end, Croft, the heroine of the hugely popular video game Tomb Raider, is an adventure warrior not unlike Fox. 

"Wanted" is based on the graphic novel books by Marc Miller & J.G. Jones.  The film's story is written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas, with Chris Morgan joining Mr. Brandt and Mr. Haas in writing the "Wanted" screenplay.

In interviews with Universal Pictures for "Wanted" Ms. Jolie, who was the only choice for the role of Fox, described her character this way: "Fox is a believer in the Code (a way of life that is purely death culture).  I like the fact that she's quite flat, in a way; she just believes in getting on with it and doesn't really show any emotion."  Ms. Jolie, whose tattoos (seen in the photos from the film both above and below) are real, with some additional artificial tatto0s presumably inserted for her character on her arms, made it clear that "Wanted" was a film not to be taken literally.  "However, let's not get too serious about this film -- it's supposed to be a fun movie, but the idea of assassinating one person to save thousands is very interesting."

Marc Platt, one of the film's four producers, described Fox as "an incredibly powerful, strong-minded, singularly-willed person who has overcome obstacles in her life to become this great assassin." 

In her own life Ms. Jolie has overcome plenty of obstacles, with the passing of her mother at an early stage of Ms. Jolie's life, as well as the added pain of Mr. Voight's adulterous ways, which pushed her further away from her father.  Before beginning to explore reparation of the torn father-daughter relationship with Mr. Voight (whom she has praised as "a great actor but . . .  a better father"), Angelina Jolie, it could be said, was searching for a father figure.  She was married for three years to actor Jonny Lee Miller before divorcing in 1999 and the following year embarked on a three-year marriage to actor Billy Bob Thornton which in 2003 ended in divorce.  Now with her boyfriend Brad Pitt she is resisting the mantra of "third time is a charm" and has cooled any gossip about, or desire to, get married again.  Of Mr. Pitt, Ms. Jolie has been quoted as saying that "we have both been married before so it's not marriage that necessarily kept some people together."  (Marriage has also been eschewed by many around the world, and in the tight-knit, closed community that is Hollywood, U.S.A., such film couples as Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, and Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon -- both couples have been together for over twenty years each and are still going strong -- also get by just fine without the contract of marriage being administered, thank you very much.)

Timur Bekmambetov's comments about Angelina Jolie reflect her seemingly iconoclastic status.  "We were very lucky -- and very happy to get Angelina.  She is just so solid, and such a nonconformist.  She's also a perfectionist, so in everything she does she wants to be the best.  She is deep and talented, grounded and specific.  She knows, every second, what she wants to do in the scene.  Her viewpoint is very strong, and so you have to understand it.  We worked with her on her dialogue, and she really helped to make it stronger," said the "Wanted" director.  Ms. Jolie, who performs some gravity-defying stunts and gyrations in "Wanted" -- she also did her own stunts in the "Tomb Raider" films -- notes that "Wanted" is a "little more nutty and has a sense of humor about itself," while not being pretentious.  "[T]here is something textured, European and a little funky about it.  Timur is a very focused, deep-thinking guy, and it's cool to see him in the middle of a big Hollywood movie, bringing something to it that is unusual."

Angelina Jolie is in the middle of another Hollywood movie and she's wanted and in demand in "Wanted", and on the A-list in Hollywood's acting ranks.  She brings celebrity, certainty and occasional controversy to the mix. 

Of the need to seek therapy for her troubled life, she has said in the past: "Therapy?  I don't need that.  The roles that I choose are my therapy."

Come and get me: Angelina Jolie as Fox, from a scene from the action-adventure thriller "Wanted".  The tattoos on her back are all her own -- real and non-erasable, although smaller additional tattoos were added on her arms and elsewhere for her character in Mr. Bekmambetov's film, which opens on Friday in the U.S. and Canada.

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