Angelina Jolie and her magnificent cheekbones return in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to Disney’s 2014 fantasy adventure.
In a traditional fairy tale world where good and bad are usually simplistically drawn, Maleficent threw a fresh spin on the age-old question of what defines a villain? And, of course, those cheekbones, gorgeous horns and wings and glittering eyes.
So who couldn’t wish for more Angelina in a role she believes she was born to play? Certainly director Joachim Ronning wanted more of her deliciously wicked creation, stepping up to take the helm on this sequel that also features Elle Fanning, reprising her role as Princess Aurora.
“Angelina created something truly unique with the first movie and with this character,” says Ronning. “It was a bold move by Disney at the time, creating a sort of anti-hero who you weren’t sure was good or bad.”
It didn’t hurt that the first film earned US $750 million at the global box office.
For Jolie, the character of Maleficent has always been close to her heart. “For me these films are about family,” she tells STACK. “When Aurora and Maleficent were first brought together they became a family. They weren’t really expecting it. Maleficent was harmed in her life and she lost her self and lost her ability to be soft or feel love. And the love of a child, which certainly happened for me in my life, being a mother, brought out something in me that completely transformed me.
“But we are different. We are different creatures in this film. And so there are metaphors, and not to be heavy about it, but I always think a good film for young people has these messages. So there’s a real question in the film: We get pulled apart. People tell us, because you’re not the same, you’re not family. Because you’re not exactly like her. You’re not her mother. And that certainly strikes a chord with me,” argues the actress who, in real life, is a strong mother to three adopted children and three of her own kids with ex, Brad Pitt. She has always treated her brood as equals – loving them in equal parts.
“So now we see Maleficent question whether she’s good enough to be a mother. And whether she is Aurora’s mother. And in the middle of this film we go on different journeys and Maleficent finds herself in this idea of, ‘Well, I’m like this. I was born this way. So that must be my true nature. I’m a creature and I’m like this, so I guess that must be my true nature’.
“We go through this period where everybody is really focusing on their differences; how different we are. And we go to our own corners with our separate backgrounds or ways of being who we are; how we’re born.
“And then there’s a real push to say this is not how it should be. And this is not how to live. And diversity makes us stronger; there must be a better way forward. And we have to come together – which we do in the film – with the humans, the creatures and the Moor folk coming together. We do that as a family and we come together and fight against this separation. We unite and say, ‘This is the world we choose to live in’. I think that is a really important message.”
Speaking to her original casting as Maleficent in the first film, Jolie says she’s come to terms with the notion she might be considered a “perfect choice” for this supposedly wicked creature.
“When I first got the call and they said, ‘Well, we thought you were the only person that could play Maleficent, it was so obvious.’ I wasn’t really sure how to take that,” she says mischievously.
“And yet, I love her. So maybe I just need to fully embrace it at this time in my life. When we first did it I thought I needed to find other aspects of her so she’s not just completely wild and full on and a bit much and fun…
“But now I’ve been through different things in my life, I was so happy to feel strong again and to have some fun. And I adore being her. There’s something about her that now, I’m very proud that I’m associated with her.”
However, it is Michelle Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith who makes Jolie’s Maleficent seem like an angel.
Speaking of her dastardly alter ego, Pfeiffer says, “I think that’s one of the interesting things about this film. Yes, it is a fairy tale, but at the same time it isn’t. It’s a very unusual fairy tale. It’s what I loved also about the first film – what was so surprising is that it played in this gray area and it talked about good vs. evil and how all of us have a little bit of everything in us.
“And I think in terms of strength and how that manifests itself, it’s different for everyone. One of the things we loved about Aurora’s character, for instance, is that in many ways she is ultimately the strongest and the wisest of all of us. My own character is really brilliant and diabolical – but I wouldn’t consider her terribly wise,” she smiles in understatement.
If Pfeiffer’s Queen appears to have few redeeming qualities then the actress muses, “Everybody has vulnerability. And I think she’s damaged, without getting too cerebral about the whole thing. Nobody behaves that way unless they’re incredibly damaged on some level. She just doesn’t wear it on her sleeve, I guess.”
With Fanning’s Aurora at the emotional core of the sequel, she manages to stand up to the forces of evil with flowers in her hair, wearing a pretty pink dress and surrounded by fairies and butterflies.
“A lot of films would put her in armour and have a sword, so then she’s fighting and that makes her strong,” says Fanning. “But that’s not Aurora’s true nature; that isn’t necessarily true for her. I love that she symbolises that and it’s also a great message for young girls.
“I was also that girl. I was always soft and wanting to be a mom and wanting to get married and be very feminine. And there’s nothing wrong with that. So we get to show her strength in accepting her femininity – and Aurora does it all in a pink dress. Very badass!”
Jolie has the last word: “Ultimately I think the message is to say to everybody, be yourself. Be your true self. We don’t live forever. We should tell our children: No matter what people see; how they see you or how they say you should be, you’ll suffocate. Be your true nature, whatever that may be. And you will find a home for it. And you will find acceptance. There is no alternative.”