Maleficent is a villain, and one of Disney's most popular
since she appeared as the wicked fairy in the 1959 animated
feature "Sleeping Beauty," in which she casts an evil spell on
The modern reimagining of that fairytale in "Maleficent" allows
Jolie to show the hurt that sparked her character's evil side
and how she overcomes it. It may be dark at times - "the darkest
Disney will go" says Jolie - but kids and adults will get laughs
from its wicked humor, an uplifting tale of justice and a new
cinematic heroine with a gothic twist.
"There are people today, especially kids, that have been bullied
and felt like they are outsiders or felt different," said Jolie
of her character, who sports black horns and sharp cheekbones.
"And I loved that this goes in that direction."
So apparently did her six kids, who encouraged her to take the
role and helped her find her memorable Maleficent voice. "My
children have seen it and it really makes them happy," she said.
The film, a big Walt Disney Co production that cost $200
million, opens Friday in U.S. theaters and the studio has
launched an ambitious marketing campaign that includes
Maleficent lines of MAC Cosmetics and clothing and shoes by
designer Stella McCartney.
The audience sweet spot is girls age 10 and up, an older group
than the younger children who swooned for the empowering
princesses in the Disney's animated blockbuster "Frozen,"
according to Phil Contrino, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com.
Riding on the momentum of "Frozen," "Maleficent" should bring in
$64 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend in the United
States and Canada, Contrino said, and Jolie's global appeal
hints at big sales overseas.
The other star of the film may be the elaborate visual
production, the creation of first-time director Robert Stromberg
who won two Academy Awards as production designer on "Avatar"
and "Alice in Wonderland."
In a lush palate influenced by classic painting in which artists
heightened landscapes, Stromberg created two worlds;
Maleficent's forest kingdom and the human kingdom ruled by
Stefan, the man who wronged her.
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Maleficent disrupts the christening of King Stefan's daughter Aurora
and lets it be known that the princess she calls "Beastie" will go
into a deep slumber when she turns 16, a spell that can only be
broken by the kiss of true love. Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty played
by an angelical Elle Fanning, tests Maleficent's hard resolve with
Maleficent "stands up for her home, she is protecting it from
mankind," said Fanning. "She is a powerful lady and she is
definitely in charge."
Jolie's life off-screen, as a United Nations special envoy, film
director and busy mother, informed her character, her director said.
"I love that it is strong female character in this film and there is
a strength to who she is in real life and as Maleficent," said
As much as she wanted to have fun with the role, Jolie also felt a
"You do a Disney film and you want kids to walk out and be better
for it," she said.
Jolie's next offering will be her second directorial effort,
"Unbroken," the real story of an Olympic runner taken prisoner in
World War II that will be released Dec. 25.
But when it comes to acting, the soon-to-be 39-year-old Jolie likes
where she is.
"The nice thing about being around for a really long time is you
stop worrying about your career and you get to just really think
about what you want to give to the audience and the experience you
want to have," she said.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy
and Andrew Hay)
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