I had just flown back Saturday night from a week swatting mosquitoes on a movie set in Georgia, so I wasn’t over-excited when a guy from my PR company called to tell me I was going to another movie set on Monday.
‘What’s it called?’
“Hackers. It’s about a group of young computer hackers, trying to stop a virus or something.”
‘Who’s in it?’
“Mostly kids you’ve never heard of… Oh yeah, the female lead is Jon Voight’s daughter.”
The next morning at crew call I was upstanding in front of Stuy High waiting for things to get started. And then I saw her. She didn’t look like any computer hacker I’d ever seen.
My question to Andrew Morton, who has just written an unauthorized biography, Angelina, or to anybody, is: When did Angelina Jolie become Angelina Jolie? When did all the elements that make everyone so fascinated with her—her otherworldly beauty, her acting talent, her oddness, her instincts for marketing herself—when exactly did all those ingredients stir up a superstar?
To put it simply, when did this 14-year-old
She was 19 years old when she made Hackers, but was very experienced in the world of showbiz by then.
She’d made her film her film debut at seven in Hal Ashby’s Lookin’ to Get Out, which her dad co-wrote and starred in.
From ages 11-13 she studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, and appeared in several stage productions. But at 14, she decided to drop out of acting classes, started dressing goth and dreamed of becoming a funeral director. Later on, while she was at Beverly Hills High, she was teased for being thin, wearing glasses and having braces. She collected knives and cut herself. But you would think she’d gain some self-esteem by 16 from the modeling work she did. Of course, who knows? Just because you realize you can turn men into quivering Smuckers, doesn’t necessarily make you happy or give you confidence.
A few years later, she did this video with the 47-year-old Meatloaf. I don’t know what you think, but I think it’s kind of creepy.
Then she starred in this straight-to-video-movie:
And played a supporting role in this one (despite the repackaged advertising):
Hackers was going to be her first theatrical release. She’d meet her husband, the pre-Trainspotting Jonny Lee Miller on it.
But none of this meant she could act. Beauty and connections only get you so far. Did she inherit acting genes from her Dad? Because she was around the world of acting from childhood? er dad wasn’t part of her life after she was pretty young. Was it because she had put the time in acting classes? What about her freaking weirdness? Funeral director? Knives? Where did that come from?
Look at that picture at the top of the page from Hackers. She looks like she’s in a Godard movie, half Jean-Pierre Leaud in Masculin-Feminin and half Anne Wiazemsky in La Chinoise. I think she had it by then, whatever it is. 9 years old and I will argue that she already booked her ticket on the Monica Vitti express. Show me one 19-year-old actress today who can pull off that kind of attitude.
Somewhere in her late teens, I don’t know exactly when, she had put it all together from her beauty, innate talent, the hurt of her childhood and who knows what else, and invent herself.
By the time I saw her, she had that whipsmart thing about her like she’d seen it all, knew it all and wasn’t telling. It was just something she owned, it was all there, and it was unnerving. Most people take a lot longer to find themselves before they are able to find success. She had the package and she knew it. Let success find her.
A lot of the film involved the hackers rollerblading around the city, pursued by bad guys. We were able to block off traffic for many blocks for some of these scenes. One day I had “Entertainment Tonight” on the set and it didn’t make sense for Angelina to take off her blades for the interview. But when she tried to do the interview with them on, she couldn’t stay still. A good publicist has to be able to improvise. I put my foot out so she could lean her wheel on it and I tried to prop her up with the side of my arm, or anything I could figure out to do to keep her in place without actually touching her. Some of you might think I’d enjoy being that close to her, but I couldn’t wait for the interview to be over. Yuck! It made me think of too many things I’d rather not think about. What would my life have been like if I was her? Thinking about myself at 19 was surreal. She was so young, and she already knew so many things I would never know and had experienced so many things I would never experience. Even if I was young, this is not the kind of girl I would ever have approached.
A few years later, I was waiting to meet a client in front of the Mayflower Hotel. Shortly after I got there, Angelina came out and lingered by the door. Maybe she was being picked up to go to the set of Gia, which was filming at the time. It was just the two of us, standing there for 10 minutes. But she wasn’t all made up, in costume, an actor on the set—she was just an attractive young woman, the kind you see all the time in New York. She was as anonymous as a prima ballerina strolling down Amsterdam Avenue in sweats, knowing she had that power within her. I was really proud of myself, thinking, “She’s going to be a huge movie star, but right now nobody’s paying any attention to her.” And it was true, nobody knew who the hell she was.
But she did. Hell yeah, I’m sure she did.
Reid Rosefelt is a veteran film publicist based in New York City. He has promoted hundreds of films, for such diverse moviemakers as Jim Jarmusch, Pedro Almodóvar, Errol Morris, Ang Lee and Werner Herzog. His personal clients have included The Sundance Institute, IFC and HBO Films, as well as Harvey Keitel, Ally Sheedy and the late Adrienne Shelly. His production publicity credits include Desperately Seeking Susan, The Godfather: Part III and, most recently, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. His blog can be found at http://my-life-as-a-blog.com/.